Uses of Hemp
Hemp is widely regarded as being the first crop to be cultivated by humans and it has grown throughout Europe and the U.S.A. by people including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln until the end of the 19th century. Since then governments have tended to focus on its use as a drug and with bar a few notable exceptions banned it all together.
Now is the time to look at the plant and consider all its uses.
Even the drug itself has positive effects, it can help sufferers of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. It was banned in the USA in 1938 against the advice of the medical community. The fact that marijuana can halt the progress of glaucoma was proven in a US court and now 8 people receive a legal supply in order to save their sight.
Hemp is a rich source of fibres which can be used to make rope and different kinds of cloth , from sails to linen substitutes. The hemp sails used by Columbus to sail to America were vital to his success as other fibres would have decayed midway.The first Levi's jeans were cut from hemp fabric and a growing hemp clothing industry is now developing which is helping with the Third World debt. It can be grown almost anywhere thus allowing small communities to set up production. Nearly all canvas paintings use hemp including Van Gogh's and Rembrandt's work. The word 'canvas' is in fact the Dutch pronunciation of the Greek word Kannibis.
The seeds are high in protein ( they are also edible) and oil which can be used for cooking, lubrication and as a fuel. Using new process techniques, hemp bio-mass can be converted into a substitute for petrol and coal. It is also smog free as hemp based oils don't release hydrocarbons into the air when burnt.
Hemp is highly eco-friendly as it is an annual crop ( countries with favourable climates can manage 2-3 harvests per year), which is easy to grow and could in the long term with proper investment, provide an alternative to a paper industry based on mass deforestation. Over a twenty year period one acre of hemp will produce as much paper as 4.1 acres of forest. Unlike cotton, it doesn't need pest protection thus lessening the need for chemical pesticides. The pulp and fibre offer a completely biodegradable alternative to plastic for many uses or can be made into regular / biodegradable plastic.
With the thinning of the ozone layer many sensitive plants including soya bean plant will have restricted growth but hemp flourishes in strong ultra violet light and so will become more productive.
At the moment its legal to grow low THC hemp ( worthless as marijuana) in Ireland provided you obey certain restrictions and there is an EC subsidy of STG £240 per acre which is being availed of by farmers in Spain, France, Italy and Holland. Why not in Ireland?
Ireland as a small economy with no reserves of fossil fuels could benefit from the use of hemp as a renewable energy from which is also more economic and versatile than other fuels.